When I was younger, I vividly remember reading and hearing the name “Ladoke Akintola” in our social studies and current affairs classes along with other famed names like “Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti”. In the books, he was listed as the then premier of the western region after Chief Obafemi Awolowo. In line with the scant regard Nigeria has for our history, his story was never fleshed out for us, he was merely an answer to test/ exam questions such as “which of these politicians was the first Nigerian to import a bulletproof car?” where you were expected to mark the right option.
As children, we couldn’t expect to know who he was if our teachers wouldn’t tell us and it wasn’t in our textbooks. As adults however, ignorance is not a valid excuse, especially with the amount of information that can be gotten from a simple Google search now.
Samuel Ladoke Akintola was born in Ogbomosho, Oyo state on the 1st of October, 1910 to Akintola and Akanke Akintola. When he was 4 years old, his family moved to Minna, along with him. At Minna, he would go on to add Nupe and Hausa to the Yoruba and English he learned how to speak back home. Eight years after he first moved to Mina with his family, he returned to Ogbomosho to live with his grandfather and start his elementary education. After his elementary education, he went on to study at Baptist College, Ogbomosho in 1925 where he excelled.
After he completed his studies at Baptist College, he went to Baptist Academy, Lagos to be a tutor there. While teaching there, he met Faderera Awomolo who he later would go on to marry. Frustrated at the lack of opportunities to advance as a teacher, he resigned from Baptist Academy to join the Nigerian Railway Corporation in 1942.
Journalism and life in the U.K
After working for some months at the Nigerian Railway Corporation, he decided he would rather put his qualifications to use as a journalist and quit the Railway service, joining the Nigerian Daily Corporation. After some years as a journalist, he sat for the University of London matriculation examination and passed, going on to study at the London school of Journalism, Fleet Street. After the completion of that degree, he took a degree course in Law and eventually got called to the bar in 1946. He eventually came home to Nigeria in 1950 and set up his own law firm in Lagos.
On his return to Nigeria, Ladoke Akintola teamed up with Obafemi Awolowo and other bright minds to form the Action Group (AG) political party. Awolowo was the obvious leader of the party and Akintola was the legal adviser of the party alongside Arthur Prest. After the death of Bode Thomas, a spot opened up and eventually, Ladoke Akintola was voted Deputy Leader of the party. In 1953, he was named minister of labor by the new government and was instrumental in ending the fallout of the Iva valley massacre
He later became the Minister of Health and was instrumental in the completion of the University College Hospital (U.C.H) and in 1965 he was elected premier of the western region as a member of the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) having left the Action Group.
Was he really the first to buy a bulletproof car in Nigeria?
Yes, he was. Unlike now when every self-respecting Nigerian “big man” owns one, they were non-existent in the country until he had one imported into the country at the then princely sum of £8,000.
He was known as one of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria and was also the 13th “Aare Ona Kakanfo” of Yoruba land. The former premier was assassinated in Ibadan during the first military coup when soldiers invaded his Ibadan home and murdered him on the 15th of January, 1966. The Ladoke Akintola University of Science and Technology was named in the memory of this great man.